“On island my mom had been delicate, brooding, sickly, just generally in need of protecting; off island she was strong and free willed and ‘blissfully’—her word and not mine—single.”
The Insatiable Volt Sisters is the second horror novel published by Rachel Eve Moulton, following up on her debut, Tinfoil Butterfly, which was shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson Award.
In The Insatiable Volt Sisters, the Volt family have served as the caretakers of Fowler Island for generations. Located in Lake Erie off the northern coast of Ohio, Fowler Island is a popular vacation destination for summer tourists, but beneath this façade the island seems to feed on the despair of its female inhabitants, driving them to their untimely deaths.
The titular Volt sisters, Beatrice and Henrietta, have come of age on Fowler Island under the auspices of their quirky yet enigmatic father and a small group of female caretakers and companions. After growing up and escaping the island for ten years, Henrietta is called back home in the wake of her father’s unexpected death.
Shirley Jackson’s influence is evident throughout The Insatiable Volt Sisters, which features a pair of sisters who seem to be the spiritual descendants of Merricat and Constance Blackwood from Jackson’s We Have Always Lived at the Castle. Like Jackson’s classic novel, The Insatiable Volt Sisters is an anthem to agoraphobia featuring unreliable narration and a distinctly feminist take on the horror genre.
In contrast to We Have Always Lived at the Castle, Moulton’s novel is told from multiple perspectives on dual timelines. Rachel Eve Moulton’s writing is vivid yet ambiguous, initially befuddling the reader and then gradually building a profound sense of dread. Often disorienting, the story seems to be wandering a bit aimlessly during the middle of the novel. But this confusion is dispelled as a sinister force driving the island’s madness gradually crystallizes.
Rachel Eve Moulton fully embraces the northern Gothic aesthetic. Lake Erie has never felt so eerie as in The Insatiable Volt Sisters, and the ending descends into full-scale Lovecraftian horror. The Volt sisters may be insatiable, but your humble reviewer felt fully satiated upon closing the back cover of this accomplished folk horror.
The Insatiable Volt Sisters is an emotional thrill ride, a meditation on inheritance and the impossibility of escaping one’s past. Despite its pervading sense of despair, the novel is ultimately a feminist tale showing the strength of women who band together to confront the past and overcome an unspeakable evil. Moulton’s work is a must-read for fans of Shirley Jackson and highly recommended for horror enthusiasts in general.
Review originally published at Grimdark Magazine.